Brooks Jensen Arts

Every Picture Is a Compromise

Lessons from the Also-rans

Most photography websites show the photographer's very best work. Wonderful. But that's not the full story of a creative life. If we want to learn, we'd better pay attention to the images that aren't "greatest hits" and see what lessons they have to offer. Every picture is a compromise — the sum of its parts, optical, technical, visual, emotional, and even cosmic – well, maybe not cosmic, but sometimes spiritual. Success on all fronts is rare. It's ok to learn from those that are not our best.

This is a series about my also-rans, some of which I've been able to improve at bit (i.e., "best effort"), none of which I would consider my best. With each there are lessons worth sharing, so I will.

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What I saw that I liked:

How long does it take to make a photograph? Sometimes, it requires 14 years.

What I don't like in the picture:

I found this pile of bamboo poles on the fishing port of Rikuzen Tomiyama in northern Japan. They had spent considerable time in the water and developed a lovely sheen. I made several compositions and didn't like any of them.

What I learned:

Finally, just a few weeks ago, I figure out the source of my discontent. First, I needed to crop to a square. Easy enough. But I also didn't like the fact that the darker, wetter poles had a blueish greenish cast to them. Probably a combination of shaded blue light and the slime that was growing on them. Once I became aware of that, a simple HSL desaturation of those colors gave me the image I'd failed to create in 14 years.

2nd Chances: What I might try next

I think I'm finally happy with this one.